Rep. Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) Gives Floor Speech Against Anti-Choice Initiative

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What a difference a month makes.

It was just last month that this very chamber repeatedly said 3 percent of Michigan’s population wasn’t enough to represent the will of Michigan, but today, only 35 days later, it seems 3 percent of the population is enough to convince this Legislature to make women in this state second-class citizens.

This initiative injects the cold, bureaucratic hand of government into the room when women and their doctors are making medical decisions — very difficult and personal medical decisions.

This initiative would require women like Jenni to choose between the best practice of health care for her and her family and the cost of that care. While many of my colleagues wrongly believe that elective abortions are simply used for unplanned pregnancies or as a form of birth control, Jenni was faced with ending a planned pregnancy when she discovered that her fetus was missing an important part of the brain and was not going to survive. She made the very difficult decision to end the pregnancy. If her insurance hadn’t covered the procedure, Jenni would have been forced to pay the entire hospital bill of more than $7,500 or risk waiting for a miscarriage, potentially threatening any chance she would’ve had to later give birth to her youngest daughter. She may have been forced to continue carrying an unviable fetus, waiting for him to die and being forced to relive her grief every time someone smiled at her knowingly, congratulated her, or simply held open a door. Why don’t we know about Jenni’s story? Because, once again, this Legislature is trying to ram through an unpopular proposal without a single hearing — without allowing the voices of people across this state to exercise their constitutional right to be heard.

This initiative would also jeopardize the care of Julie. I can’t use her name because of HIPAA and again, she did not have the ability to tell her own story because there wasn’t a single hearing on this issue. Julie is a 35-year-old woman with insulin-dependent diabetes since age 6. During her first trimester, there was bleeding, but she continued to have a live fetus. Control of her diabetes had been made difficult by the pregnancy, and she had frequent high and low blood sugar readings. Bleeding continued in the second trimester, and her blood count was near the threshold where blood transfusion is needed to prevent complications of severe anemia. At 17 weeks gestation, she reported a watery vaginal discharge and increased pelvic cramping. Ultrasound and a dye infusion test confirmed that her bag of waters had ruptured and the fetus still had a heartbeat. She was counseled that the pregnancy would likely end in fetal death before the point of survival outside her uterus (23-24 weeks gestation) and that, if the fetus did reach the age of viability, it would likely die after birth from abnormal lung development due to the absence of amniotic fluid. Continuation of the pregnancy placed the mother at increased risk of blood transfusion, uterine infection and hysterectomy. In addition, the continuation of poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of accelerated diabetic complications such as kidney injury and blindness from retinal disease.

If this woman chooses to terminate this pregnancy to preserve her health and future fertility, she would not have insurance coverage under this legislation, unless she had pre-purchased the “abortion rider.”

This initiative would also shut the door on the recruitment of much needed OBs and GYNs throughout this state, by inviting Big Brother into the exam room, dictating that doctors and patients choose between what is medically appropriate care and whether or not they will be fined for the procedure and not reimbursed for the cost. Today, 1/4 of Michigan counties do not have a single practicing OB/GYN. That’s 22 counties without services for women without this archaic law. How many more counties will shut their doors to women’s health? With the eyes of government looking over your shoulder, taking away payment options for your patients and potentially fining you $10,000 for providing necessary and quality care, why would you want to practice in Michigan?

Medical insurance is supposed to be there for the thousands of unforeseeable conditions, from simple flu vaccinations to preventative mental health care. Why would this state choose to exempt procedures needed when there are pregnancy complications? Especially when pregnancy complications are one of the top 10 causes of death for women under 35? There is no rational or medical reason to place lifesaving reproductive care that saves women’s lives into another category at an additional cost.

I thought my colleagues on the other side of the aisle like to call themselves the party of small government?

Just last month, I sat through committee listening to my colleagues grandstand about how the Affordable Care Act was a government intervention into healthcare that would increase costs.

I listened as colleague after colleague bashed the president, because insurance companies were discontinuing some of their policies and changing some of their plans.

Yet, I stand here today as those same colleagues argue for more government intervention in doctor’s offices across our state - actually voting to dismantle private health care plans and increase insurance and healthcare costs for women.

This extreme proposal actually does the very thing that these colleagues claim to oppose - alter health insurance plans and then force women to purchase new plans, just to keep the coverage that they already have.

Right to Life’s president went as far as to claim that the women of Michigan should be expected to plan for rape as they would plan for a flood or a car accident.

But, Madam Speaker, rape is no accident!

Under this proposal, in cases of rape or when a woman’s life is at risk, no longer will those women and their doctors be allowed to make informed, thoughtful and medically necessary decisions.

Instead, a bunch of politicians — without a single physician among you — will have told them that government knows best when it comes to women’s reproductive healthcare.

I am ashamed, Madam Speaker!

I am ashamed that this legislature, which is comprised of just 20 percent women, feels so compelled to interfere in the health care choices of women.

I am ashamed that the supporters of this proposal can’t be bothered with facts — repeating the bold-faced lie that their tax dollars are somehow being used for abortions, despite the fact that the federal Hyde Amendment has banned tax dollars from being spent on elective abortions since 1977 and that Michigan law already does so, as well.

I am ashamed that while unemployment is climbing, schools are closing their doors, and cities are going bankrupt, this legislature cannot get over its teenage fascination with vaginas long enough to actually focus on the real problems plaguing our state!

Women know that there is no medical need for this bill. We know that there are no cost-savings in this bill. This bill is pure politics. It’s just that simple.

Now, I understand that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle apparently preferred the days when women didn’t have a vote — when we were to be seen and not heard.

Well, Madam Speaker, you can try to limit our rights and our freedoms, you can even try to make us second-class citizens.

But we are not going away.

We are not sitting down!

We are not shutting up!

Women are watching and we are fighting back!

I demand a no vote, because enough is enough.